Ex-Attorney Convicted of Stealing More Than $800,000 from Elderly Victim with Dementia

The United States Attorney’s Office from the Southern District of Ohio recently issued a press release that highlights how elderly individuals suffering from dementia may be vulnerable to financial abuse. The press release can be found here.

As the release explains, the attorney defrauded his client—an elderly woman in her 80s—over the course of seven years, between 2012 and 2019. The attorney’s law license was revoked in 2015. The attorney stole the funds using a myriad of methods, including utilizing his role as the victim’s power of attorney and status as a lawyer to transfer money to himself, to force the victim’s signature on a revocation of a family member’s separate power of attorney, and to cash out the victim’s U.S. Treasury Bonds and life insurance policies. The attorney was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $882,502 in restitution.

This tragic story underscores the difficulties in flagging and investigating alleged financial abuse when the victim is not capable of protecting his or her own interests. It also rebuts the assumption that some courts and attorneys make in inheritance litigation that one only needs to look back a year or two prior to the victim’s death to evaluate whether elder financial abuse of the victim may have occurred. Here, the victim suffered dementia for at least seven years.

If you or a loved one suspects that an elderly person with dementia is being taken advantage of, you should consider reporting elder abuse. There may also be options to pursue an investigation through a civil action. For example, in Wisconsin, there are routes to seek court review of an agent’s conduct under a financial power of attorney.

Trevor C. Lippman is a shareholder at the law firm of O’Neil Cannon. Lippman assists clients with all matters related to inheritance disputes, including questions surrounding the creation and administration of trusts and wills. Lippman has assisted hundreds of clients navigate the difficult waters involved in elderly financial abuse allegations and inheritance litigation. To schedule an initial consultation with Lippman, call 414.276.5000 or email him at trevor.lippman@wilaw.com.